When a veteran of the United States Military returns home from active service with a disability, he may be unable to support his family or provide them with a standard of living equal to the living he would have been able to provide had he not been injured in service. In order to help support the veteran's family, certain monetary, educational, and health care benefits may be available to spouses of disabled veterans.
A veteran of the United States Armed Forces who suffers from a medically diagnosed disability that is connected to an incident that occurred during active service ("service-connected") is likely eligible for veterans disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If the veteran is married, the spouse of a wounded veteran may also be entitled to receive certain benefits through the VA.
The Department of Veterans Affairs determines a veteran’s level of disability and assigns the disability a rating ranging from 10% to 100%. If the veteran is assigned a rating of 30% or more, a veteran with a spouse is entitled to receive a higher monthly payment - $150 more per month. A veteran with a spouse and child receives an additional $259 per month (plus an additional $75 per month for each additional child.) The spouse does not need to apply for these extra benefits; they are awarded automatically when the veteran’s original payment is approved.
If the veteran’s spouse is a patient in a nursing home, or if the spouse is blind, nearly blind, or disabled so as to require regular assistance from another person, the monthly increase in the veteran’s payment is $286 for a veteran who is rated permanently disabled. The monthly payment is proportionately less for veterans with a disability rating between 30 and 90 percent.
In order for spouses of permanently and totally disabled veterans to be able to support their families, Congress also enabled such spouses to receive qualifying educational and training benefits through the Department of Education Assistance (DEA).
In order for the spouse of a veteran to be eligible, the veteran must have been disabled as a result of a service-connected incident that occurred during active service. The spouse is eligible to receive these educational benefits for 10 years, measured either from the effective date of the veteran’s disability evaluation or from the date of the notification of the rating decision. For permanently and totally disabled veterans, the spouse is eligible for these benefits for a period of 20 years starting from the date the disability rating was determined. The spouse has 45 months of eligibility in which to receive benefits.
The amount of DEA educational assistance depends upon whether the eligible individual is a full-time or part-time student and whether the education is done through an institution, apprenticeship, on-the job training, farm co-op training, or correspondence courses.
In order to apply for these DEA benefits, the spouse must submit to the VA regional office a copy of VA Form 22-5490, Dependents’ Application for VA Education Benefits. The educational facility must certify the student's enrollment to the VA, or, if the student has not yet chosen a program of study, the VA will issue him or her a Certificate of Eligibility. Courses and programs must be approved by the local state approving agency, if one exists.
The spouse’s divorce and/or remarriage may disqualify him or her from eligibility for these benefits.
Spouses of disabled veterans may also be eligible for health care coverage through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA), a program through which the VA shares the cost of covered health care services and supplies.
Through this program, spouses of veterans who are totally and permanently disabled are eligible to receive reimbursement for most medically and psychologically necessary expenses, including inpatient and outpatient services, mental health care, prescription medications, skilled nursing care, and durable medical equipment.
If the spouse has other health insurance, or Medicare, he or she is still eligible to receive benefits through CHAMPVA (the spouse's health insurance will be billed first, with CHAMPVA acting to assist with any expenses not first covered by the primary health insurance). However, if the spouse has health care coverage through TRICARE, a Department of Defense health care program, he or she is not eligible for CHAMPVA benefits.
In order to apply for CHAMPVA benefits, the spouse of the disabled veteran must submit the following forms and ID:
If the applicant does not have Medicare, he or she must submit documentation from the Social Security Administration confirming that he or she is not eligible for Medicare.
If a spouse gets divorced or a surviving spouse gets remarried, he or she will not be eligible for benefits. But if a remarriage is later terminated by death, divorce, or annulment, eligibility for CHAMPVA benefits can be reestablished. A remarried widow or widower who is once again single should submit a divorce decree, death certificate or annulment decree along with the documents above.
While not required, it may be helpful for applicants to send the following as well:
The application and supporting paperwork must be mailed to the CHAMPVA Eligibility Office at the following address:
VA Health Administration Center
PO Box 469064
Denver, CO 80246-9064.
Spouses of disabled veterans are also eligible for burial benefits in VA cemeteries. Burial benefits are available to spouses and dependents of service members who served either two consecutive years of active duty or the full period of active duty for their particular assignment (and who were discharged in other than dishonorable conditions). These benefits include a grave site, grave liner, the opening and closing of the grave, a headstone or marker (including a medallion or an “in memory of” marker), and care of the grave site as a part of the cemetery.
Spouses of veterans who die after January 2000 do not lose these burial benefits when they remarry. Unmarried children of veterans are also eligible for these benefits.
The spouse of a disabled veteran may also be eligible to receive benefits from his or her state of residence. Some states offer benefits such as property tax exemptions, free counseling services, and employment assistance. Such benefits vary from state to state. Interested spouses should contact their state's Department of Veterans Affairs for more information.